A Florida Amber Alert issued in March for a then-17-year-old girl missing from Chattanooga, Tennessee, was canceled Friday when authorities announced she was found safe in Samson, Alabama. That’s west of Dothan about 12 miles north of the Florida border.
Daphne Westbrook, now 18, was last seen in Tennessee in October 2019 but on March 12, due to what investigators called a case with “unique circumstances,” an Amber Alert was issued for her after information placed her in Florida with her father. Authorities believe she was kidnapped by her non-custodial father, John Westbrook.
The Hamilton County, Tennessee, District Attorney’s Office said Daphne Westbrook was pulled over about 1:30 a.m. Friday for a traffic violation in Alabama while driving an older-model Toyota station wagon with Colorado plates. She had her dog and several cellphones, including one registered to an address outside of Kansas City, the DA said.
The DA said she was not cooperative with investigators after she was pulled over. She has hired an attorney and showed no interest in talking with her mother on the phone.
“She told us she is going to a hotel in Panama City Beach where she is supposed to meet up with one of her high-school friends from Chattanooga,” said Kerry Clewell, special projects investigator for Hamilton County.
After that visit, she was planning to go to her aunt’s house in Sebring -- south of Orlando.
According to the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, Daphne Westbrook in October 2019 did not return from a weekend visit with her father, John Westbrook. The agency said that in June 2020, authorities in Hamilton County secured a warrant for John Westbrook, charging him with custodial interference. He was later indicted in February 2021 with aggravated kidnapping.
“She was very careful not to say she was with him,” said Kerry Clewell, special projects investigators for Hamilton County. “She did say when she turned 18, ‘I went to my dad and said I need money, I need a car and I want to get out of here,’”
Authorities are looking for John Westbrook. Investigators said Westbrook is known to be an IT-security expert and he has made it difficult for authorities to track them.
Neal Pinkston, the Hamilton County district attorney, said when the Amber Alert was issued that authorities had information that Daphne Westbrook was being drugged and supplied with alcohol.
“He’s looking at 20+ years if convicted of aggravated kidnapping charges because that is a serious felony,” News4Jax crime and safety expert Ken Jefferson said.
UPDATE: Daphne Westbrook, the subject of an Endangered Child Alert issued under the Holly Bobo Act earlier this week, has been found safe in Samson, Alabama!— Tennessee Bureau of Investigation (@TBInvestigation) May 28, 2021
Thank you for joining us in staying vigilant in this ongoing search! pic.twitter.com/h52b4ViAVp
Pinkston said a sighting was reported in Fort Walton Beach, Florida, on March 6.
Four days ago authorities with the Tennessee Bureau of Investigations said an Endangered Child Alert had been issued for the now 18-year-old Daphne Westbrook. Because Westbrook had turned 18, authorities had to enact the Holly Bobo Act, which increases the age limit from 18 to 21 for endangered or missing adult alerts.
The TBI posted Friday morning saying Daphne had been found safe in Alabama.